The Boston Globe published an article on 03/26/06 which reports that Utah Symphony & Opera and Boston Pops Music Director Keith Lockhart doesn’t believe living year-round in Salt Lake would guarantee a better orchestra…
The article cites an implication made by consultant and retired Cleveland Orchestra president Tom Morris that he would like to see Lockhart spend more time at his post in Utah. Morris was contracted by the US&O last year to evaluate their current position and his evaluation has served as the foundation for their current recovery plan.
The issue of whether or not a music director should reside in the city they conduct has been a hot issue the past few years. I doubt there is any universal answer which would guarantee one living arrangement will more successful over another. Nevertheless, the issue comes down to some basic aspects of leadership.
There’s a growing double standard in many American orchestras with regard to audience development and public interaction that dictates what is good for the geese is not necessarily good for the gander.
In particular, I find this double standard largely apparent among education programs. In ever increasing numbers, orchestras are sending their musicians into local schools for a variety of educational outreach efforts. In general, they are mostly a good thing (although whether or not they’ll do much good in the here-and-now is arguable) but I rarely see music directors involved in these activities to a fraction of the extent as are the players.
How many times does a music director go to a local high school to guest conduct their orchestra? Do they have their agents contact the respective state music educators association to let them know that their orchestral music director client would like to conduct the local All-State orchestra (or, gasp, band)?
Unfortunately, most of the music director interaction with the public I observe comes in the form of talking from the stage, shaking some hands at an open concert reception, or giving a pre-concert lecture. Those may be good activities but they still fundamentally reinforce a “music director mystique” mentality among the public.
If the business is sincere about wanting to establish stronger connections with their audience then a number of music directors will need to realize that their involvement within an organization is going to require greater time commitments. That means less high-fee-globe-trotting-guest-conducting and more time at their posts building their ensembles alongside their fellow musicians (after all, they get paid enough to do these things already).